‘Haas are on a decline and Komatsu needs time’

Total-Motorsport.com take a closer look at what to expect from Haas ahead of the 2024 Formula 1 season

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Haas enter their ninth season in Formula 1 but their first without Guenther Steiner as he was replaced by Ayao Komatsu after his contract was not renewed at the start of 2024.

The experience of Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen have been retained but the team already admit they go into pre-season testing, anticipating they will be at the back of the grid.

Total-Motorsport.com journalists Adam Dickinson, Jasmine Hughes, Joe Krishnan, Ed Spencer and Brandon Sutton take a look at what to expect from Haas in 2024.

Ed Spencer: Give Komatsu time

Komatsu has never been a team principal before and, therefore, should be given time, but he will have limited resources to work with as the signs for 2024 point in the direction of trouble ahead.

The lack of optimism stems from a miserable 2023 season and the disastrous performance of its lauded Austin upgrade package cost the team valuable development time for 2024.

Gene Haas’ unwillingness to invest makes for grim reading for Haas’ solid driver line-up of Magnussen and Hulkenberg, who are likely to be consigned to another year struggling to get into the points.

The 2024 Haas F1 car | Haas F1 Team

Magnussen looked incredibly fed up running at the back at the end of 2023, whilst Hulkenberg, despite flashes of brilliance, is running out of time to get a car good enough to showcase his talent.

Gene Haas doesn’t want to sell his team, but another season in the abyss with a downbeat driver line-up and workforce coupled with a potential loss of sponsors may make him think again.

Constructors’ Championship prediction: 10th place

Joe Krishnan: Haas must improve on Sundays

Haas are a team in decline and the facts don’t lie; 12 points in 2023 represents a massive 25-point fall from the 2022 season, when they finished eighth. Given that there is a $20million difference between eighth and 10th, that will have hurt the American team’s future prospects given sponsors are difficult to come by.

There were some positives last season, most of which were related to their qualifying pace. Hulkenberg made it into Q3 on nine occasions, while Magnussen qualified fourth in Miami. But all too often, we saw the two drivers fall down the grid as they struggled for pace.

Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen look on at the 2023 Abu Dhabi GP | Andy Hone / LAT Images / Haas F1

Clearly, Haas are quick over one lap, and now Komatsu must find a way to transfer that form into genuine race pace. Likewise, Hulkenberg and Magnussen will be under pressure to improve on Sundays, especially with the influx of talented young drivers emerging from F2.

F1 fans will certainly miss Steiner‘s wacky antics, but it felt for some time like the team needed a fresh approach. When you consider their similar resources and identical Ferrari engine, I think Haas will finish above Sauber – and they must, if only to justify giving Steiner the boot.

Constructors’ Championship prediction: 9th place

Adam Dickinson: Little ambition to significantly improve

What is this team’s identity? Haas 1.0 were the plucky disruptive upstarts that had the rest of the F1 midfield quaking, they followed that with their ‘Ericsson hit us’ banter era spearheaded by the Steiner meme machine, and even had a stint as Mazepin Racing too.

But what now? Komatsu may turn out to be an inspired hire but right now his resume is less than sparkling and Hulkenberg and Magnussen are two drivers with very clearly defined floors and ceilings. What’s worse is that Haas don’t even seem to have the ambition to significantly improve.

Their best-case scenario is that if they can get on top of their tyre issues then they have a good qualifying base to score points regularly, but I’ve no faith in that happening at least in Bahrain as Komatsu admitted just ahead of their launch that they still don’t fully understand it.

Oliver Bearman speaks with former team principal Guenther Steiner the 2023 Mexico City GP | Haas / Andy Hone / LAT Images

But I am excited to see Ollie Bearman announced as their reserve driver and with both Hulkenberg and Magnussen‘s contracts expiring this year, I hope the prodigious Brit can push his case for a Haas F1 seat in 2025.

Constructors’ Championship prediction: 10th place

Brandon Sutton: Haas doomed for last place

Doomed for last place and they’ve almost admitted as much. Their only wild card could be a fresh sense of direction in the absence of Steiner.

It’s ironic that after F1 rejected Andretti as unlikely to add value to the grid, the only other American team will not offer anything at all unless something crazy happens in one of the races.

It’s crucial for the team to figure out how to get the car to work with the tyres, so that Hulkenberg’s qualifying speed can be rewarded with something he can actually use on a Sunday but they were unable to solve it in 2019 and 2023 so I won’t hold my breath.

For Magnussen, I think this might be his last season in the sport with Bearman bearing large on the horizon so he needs to make an impression if he bids to stay in the Grand Circus in the future.

Considering the successes of ex-F1 drivers who switched to IndyCar, he might be wise to cross the pond and see if he can finally win some races because he’s no slouch behind a wheel.

Jasmine Hughes: Haas on shaky ground

Haas finished last year on a low that looks set to continue well into 2024. With just 12 points to its name, the American team placed firmly at the bottom of the pile, coming 10th overall in the Constructors’ Standings.

It’s such shortcomings that led to the sudden, shocking departure of Steiner — a stalwart presence for the team since its Formula 1 debut in 2016. With such a major leadership reshuffle coming so soon before the start of the season, Haas will find itself heading to pre-season testing on shaky ground.

There’s stability in its driver line-up – unchanged from last year’s pairing of Magnussen and Hulkenberg – but this feels little cause for celebration. The pair’s performances in 2023 were underwhelming at best, with Hulkenberg responsible for the vast majority of the team’s points.

It’s likely 2024 will be another challenging year for Haas. As its new team principal works to get to grips with the role, Haas could easily be eclipsed by its competitors. All Hulkenberg and Magnussen can hope for is a car that doesn’t struggle for pace quite so much as Haas’ 2023 challenger did.

Constructors’ Championship prediction: 10th place

Ed Spencer
Ed Spencer
FIA accredited journalist
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